Ultimate Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary
I’ve finally put together a detailed Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary for those of you who may be planning a visit to this beautiful part of the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. This post will cover numerous destinations, popular sites & attractions and so much more, that I personally recommend including in your journey.
First, check out this superb Victoria BC Tourism video, offering a glimpse of this Beautiful City on Vancouver Island.
Discover Vancouver Island BC Tourism – Youtube Video
About Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Canada
Vancouver island is 460 kilometres or 290 miles long and 100 kilometres or 62 miles at its widest point. It is the largest island on the West Coast of the Americas.
“Along with the Gulf Islands, this rugged paradise combines old-growth forests, snow capped mountains, and untamed shorelines to create one of the planet’s most diverse ecosystems.”
Vancouver Island is one of the world’s best places for whale watching, birding and fishing. It is an outdoor enthusiasts dream come true!
From the Pacific Ocean & its spectacular coastline and beaches, to snow packed mountains great for winter and summer activities & picturesque towns scattered throughout the Island, you couldn’t ask for a better place to spend a vacation!
BC Ferries To Victoria – British Columbia
Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary – Start
For most of you, your journey will probably have you arriving in the City of Vancouver on the mainland. I definitely recommend spending a few days before or after your journey in this amazing city.
Check out my post & photos on Reasons Why Vancouver Tourism Is Soaring. I have listed some great things to see & do during your stay.
Enjoy a ride with BC Ferries from Vancouver to Victoria BC. The journey takes 1 ½ hours and the scenery is spectacular!
This is a passenger and vehicle ferry run by the BC Provincial Government. You can check out my post on Experience British Columbia Ferry Travel with all the information you need to begin your trip over to Vancouver Island.
You have a choice of ferry crossing either to the mainland from Victoria or Nanaimo, depending on your travel plans.
In my post, I’ve included a video and direct link to the Official BC Ferries website for your convenience. 🙂
Even though the ferries run regularly from morning to evening, I strongly urge you to make advance reservations for the crossing. This especially so, if you are traveling in your Recreational Vehicle and between the months of May – September.
Victoria British Columbia
Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary – Victoria
Often referred to as one of the “Most Beautiful Cities In The World,” Victoria BC is the perfect place to start your Vancouver Island Travel Itinerary. Be sure to make a point of spending a few days in this, the Capital City of British Columbia.
Situated on the most Southern tip of Vancouver Island, there are endless outstanding things to see and do in and around the city.
Take a look at this Victoria BC tourism video offering a glimpse of this Beautiful City on Vancouver Island.
Victoria British Columbia – YouTube Video
I was fortunate enough to be raised and live in Victoria for many years. Although I returned to the mainland for my career, I now live back on Vancouver Island, just a couple of hours up island in a small seaside community.
I could go on and on about the many wonderful sites and attractions the city has to offer, but it would take all day. To get you started, I’ve listed a couple of links below to my posts and photos here on my travel blog for you to check out.
Chemainus & Ladysmith BC
Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary – Chemainus & Ladysmith
As you leave Victoria and start making your way up Island, there are two lovely small communities that you must check out along the way.
Originally was founded in 1858 as a typical small logging community, Chemainus is now well known for attracting visitors from all over the world. They come to view their Outdoor Painted Murals on their buildings in town.
Today, there are 63 amazing murals and various sculptures which can all be viewed on foot, 365 days a year. The themes of the murals vary from indigenous heritage and logging lore, to rail history, nature and immigration.
It’s definitely worth a stop to take a break, stretch your legs and take some photographs of these murals. The drive is just over 1 hour from Victoria City limits on Highway 1 in good flowing traffic.
For more complete details on these beautiful murals in town, I’ve included a link to the Chemainus Murals Society listed below.
Carry on just a few minutes up island and you will come to the small community of Ladysmith. This is a perfect picnic or lunch stop as you make your way up Island on this day of travel.
“Ladysmith is a spirited community that values its small town quality of life, where we work together as stewards of our heritage, environment and economy.”
A lovely picturesque town with all the amenities you need for traveling. In town there’s gas, restaurants, parks and more. Be sure to visit Old Town Bakery located right downtown, especially for their Signature Cinnamon Buns!
Transfer Beach Park
This is one of our favorite Parks to stop at when traveling to and from Victoria from our home up Island. This is a beautiful seaside family park in Ladysmith that’s great for a swim in the summer, a picnic, dog off leash area, fabulous kids spray park, playground, washroom facilities and more.
There’s also a large extra parking area for those of you traveling in your Recreational Vehicle.
Nanaimo & Parksville
Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary – Nanaimo & Parksville
I recommend spending your first evening either in the City of Nanaimo or just 15 minutes further up the island to the seaside community of Parksville.
Parksville BC City Beach Park
Nanaimo is a fast growing Harbour City, located an easy 2 hour drive from downtown Victoria. It’s also about a 3 hour drive to world renowned Tofino BC, located on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island.
Rathtrevor Provincial Park
Depending on your time and mode of travel (camping or other accommodations), both communities offer great facilities. If you are camping, I do recommend Parksville and Rathtrevor Provincial Park Campground.
Rathtrevor is a spectacular seaside campground, with beautiful old growth treed sites,with a huge sandy beach, excellent swimming to enjoy during your stay.
Advance Reservations are a must in the summer months. You can make reservations at the BC Provincial Parks site I’ve listed below for your convenience.
Coombs – Little Qualicum Falls – Cathedral Grove
Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary – Coombs, Little Qualicum Falls, Cathedral Grove, Port Alberni
You simply cannot travel to Vancouver Island without a visit to world famous Long Beach, on the rugged west coast. About a 3 hour drive from Parksville, there’s numerous scenic stops along the way, that also must be seen.
If you blink, you’ll miss this tiny touristy community of Coombs, as you make your way just outside of Parksville. It’s famous for its “Goats on the Roof”. These guys have been on the rooftop of the Coombs Country Market for over 40 years, and tourists from all over make a point of visiting.
Today, spend some time and stroll through the many local galleries, artisan shops, eateries and much more at this now famous Island attraction.
Little Qualicum Falls
Next on your list of “Must Stops” is Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. This beautiful Park and its Falls straddle the Little Qualicum River, and take up the entire southern shore of Cameron Lake.
Take an easy hike alongside these picturesque waterfalls that flow down a rocky steep gorge in a densely forested setting. Be sure to bring your camera with you for some amazing photos.
If you’re lucky enough to visit in the Spring, the Falls are intense! With the snow melting from the mountains, the Falls are raging and a spectacular site to see.
There’s washroom and picnic facilities located here and a Provincial Park Campground next door as well. Check out my post and photos here for more detailed information.
Officially known as MacMillan Provincial Park, the Douglas Fir trees in Cathedral Grove are among the oldest on the Island, over 800 years and the tallest in Canada as well. Some trees reach 9 metres wide and 76 metres tall.
An ideal stop on the way to Tofino and Ucluelet, Cathedral Grove is located directly on Highway 4 between Coombs and Port Alberni. Parking is very limited, so try to arrive early if you can, especially during the peak summer months.
There are picnic and washroom facilities at both locations for your convenience.
With a population of approximately 18,000, Port Alberni is a large deep Port City situated at the edge of the Alberni Inlet. The area has a strong First Nations History and its main economy is the Forestry Industry.
The city is also a very popular starting point for World Class Salmon Fishing. There’s everything you need from shopping centers, restaurants, camping and accommodation, should you choose to spend some extra time here.
If you do, I highly recommend a visit to the Alberni Heritage Network and Steam Train Locomotive. The kids will love the train which takes you out to the fun and Interactive Heritage Sawmill. You can see my post and photos of our visit at …
Ucluelet – Tofino
Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary – Ucluelet & Tofino
As you enter the T-Junction to the town of Ucluelet and Tofino, you will see the Tourism & National Park Tourist Information Center. This is a must stop before heading in either direction.
You will need a National Park Permit if you intend on staying in the Park for camping and parking. You can purchase your pass here, along with a host of maps and general tourist information for both areas.
Ucluelet means “People of the Safe Harbour” in the indigenous Nuu-chah-nulth language. The Ucluth peninsula has a significant First Nations history; having been inhabited by the Yuu-tluth-aht people for thousands of years.
“Come discover the pristine coastline, temperate rainforest and secluded beaches nestled along Vancouver Island’s top rated Wild Pacific Trail. A laid back fishing village perched on the most westerly edge of Canada surrounded by the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.”
In Ucluelet, you’ll find restaurants, B&B’s, artisan shops to check out. There’s the spectacular Wild Pacific Trail that travels along the coastline, complete with viewing decks for you to enjoy the stunning views.
It’s an easy relaxed trail to walk for all to enjoy!
Below, I’ve included a link below to the Official Ucluelet Tourism website page for you to check out on this west coast community.
Sandy beaches including world renowned Long Beach, Tofino offers year-round surfing for all levels, superb coastal hiking trails and much more.
Between Ucluelet & Tofino is the very popular Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, one of Canada’s Premier National Parks.
Tofino is a small coastal village at the western edge of Vancouver Island and rich in history and the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation people.
Whether you’re camping or looking for accommodations, there’s plenty available in both communities to suit most all budgets. Spend some time here and enjoy the spectacular coastal scenery, easy hiking trails, restaurants and shops.
You’ll love your stay on this part of the Island. 🙂
Below, I’ve also included a link below to the Official Tofino Tourism website page for your convenience.
Continuing further up the Island, you need to head back to Parksville/ Qualicum Beach. From here and depending on your time, you have 2 choices for continuing up to the City of Campbell River.
There’s the option of taking the fast four lane divided Highway 19, or the older original and more scenic coastal drive on Highway 19A. It’s about 1 hour on the divided stretch or double that on the 2 lane slower coastal highway.
Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary – Campbell River
Campbell River is at the heart of the “North Central Island” and surrounded by 5 Provincial Parks; Strathcona, Miracle Beach, Morton Lake, Loveland Bay and Elk Falls.
At last count, the City of Campbell River has a population of over 35,000 and has been known around the Globe as the “Salmon Capital of the World“.
There’s everything you need in the city, from waterfront parks, shopping, accommodation, fishing and whale watching tours, just to name a few things to keep you busy for days!
A great place to stock up on necessities if you’re planning on visiting the area’s beautiful Provincial Parks and lakes.
Check out the link below to the Official Discover Campbell River Tourism website for more complete travel information.
From Campbell River, it’s about a 2 hour drive to my next highly recommended stop at Telegraph Cove. From there, you’re just a hop, skip and jump to the north tip of Vancouver Island and the community of Port Hardy.
Telegraph Cove & Port McNeill
Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary – Telegraph Cove & Port McNeill
A lovely picturesque fishing community and popular tourist attraction.
In Telegraph Cove you’ll find …
➳ Whale Museum & Interpretive Center;
➳ Whale Watching Tours;
➳ Grizzly Boat Excursions;
➳ Accommodation & Camping.
Make time to visit or stay a while in this lovely historic fishing village. There’s also the larger community of Port McNeill just minutes up the highway.
Be sure to check out my post and photos here of our outstanding and highly recommended whale watching tour with MacKay Whale Watching Tours, departing from downtown Port McNeill.
Port Hardy – British Columbia
Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary – Port Hardy
With a population over 4,000, the Community of Port Hardy is the largest on Vancouver Island North and serves as the crossroads for air, ferry and marine transportation networks.
It is also the central gateway to the world renowned Cape Scott and North Coast Trails, offering exceptional rugged scenery for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers alike.
Port Hardy’s pristine environment serves as a gateway to many outdoor activities for both locals and tourists. There’s sport fishing, world class scuba diving, caving, kayaking, recreational boating, hiking, and nature viewing.
Port Hardy also is the home of BC Ferries most Northern Terminus for its famous “Discovery Coast” run and Inside Passage to the City of Prince Rupert BC, located back on the mainland’s northern coast.
For those of you wanting to explore Northern British Columbia and beyond to the Yukon Territories and Alaska, you may want to consider taking this BC Ferry from Port Hardy.
Although pricey if you’re traveling with a recreational vehicle, this 22 hour journey may be well worth the expense for time saved and extra travel expenses.
Many visitors also opt to do this very popular circle route. Taking the ferry to Prince Rupert and then traveling back down to Vancouver, or done in reverse. This is especially popular for those of you who are on a camping vacation.
Below, I’ve listed the Official BC Ferries website link, directing the page to their page on the Northern Expedition ship, where you can take a virtual tour, access ship schedules, fares and much more.
Take some time, check out the tourism websites I have listed in this post and create a journey that will suit you best and one filled with memories that will last a lifetime!
Safe and Healthy Travels! 🙂
🙂 Don’t Forget It … Be Sure To Pin It! 🙂